Press conference with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities

Prime Minister: Well good morning. I’m here with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Michael McCormack and I’m also here with Paul Fletcher, Minister for Urban Infrastructure, and Jonathan Vandervoort from the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

What we're talking about this morning is $400 million going into bust congestion, to deliver on our national economic plan that is showing record jobs growth. Last year the highest jobs growth in any calendar year in our nation's history. More businesses are investing. More people are in jobs. Fewer people are on unemployment benefits.

As a consequence, we have a stronger Budget and that enables us, and that is the only reason we are able to do it, because we have a stronger Budget, a national economic plan that is working, we can ensure that we invest in the infrastructure that busts congestion that means people can get home sooner and safer, gets trucks off the road here, more goods carried on trains—and I’ll go into the detail of that in a moment—but what that means is more people can get home sooner and safer, less congestion and we can get goods to and from the port. This is vital economic infrastructure.

Now for many years, Jonathan how would you—many years?

Mr Jonathan Vandervoort—Executive General Manager, Interstate Network, ARTC: Yes.

Prime Minister: Many years, aeons, there’s been a need to duplicate 2.9 kilometres of this rail line to Port Botany.

We are now going to invest the money, we are committing the money—$400 million, both for this and a passing loop at Cabramatta which will enable the traffic of rail, of containers going by rail, to dramatically increase, and do you know, every single additional train with containers along this rail line takes 50 trucks off the roads? So the goal is to increase the rail share of this Port Botany port, this container port, from just under 20 per cent to 40 per cent and we're seeing big growth in the port as well.

So this is future-proofing the port, this is the type of investment that we need to make to ensure our economy remains strong.

You know, whether it's the Tullamarine Freeway in Victoria, whether it is the big investments in the Bruce Highway in Queensland, whether it is building the Western Sydney Airport and the North South Rail Link here in New South Wales. Right across the country, we're spending $75 billion on infrastructure over the next decade and we're allocating an extra $24 billion in this Budget to go to infrastructure.

But, the only reason we can do it is because our national economic plan is working and that involves lower taxes, more investment, more jobs, more economic growth. That is the key.

A strong economy is the key to this type of economic infrastructure—it's the key to guaranteeing essential services, whether it's record funding on schools, record funding on hospitals. All of that depends on a strong economy.

Only the Coalition can deliver that strong economy, that economic leadership that is delivering what we promised in 2016, the jobs and growth that Australians need to realise their dreams and we need to support the revenues to guarantee the essential services and build the economic infrastructure we need for the future.

So I'll ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure to elaborate on those remarks.

Deputy Prime Minister: Well thank you Prime Minister.

You're certainly right, this infrastructure announcement today, this $400 million investment is going to help the freight task, the freight task, which is expected to double over the next two decades. Just 20 years, our freight task here in Australia is expected to double.

So we believe in rail. We, in the Coalition, the Liberals and Nationals, believe in rail and that’s why we're investing $400 million into this Cabramatta loop and Port Botany project here today.

That’s why we’re investing $9 billion in the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail. It's not just freight rail that we’re concerned about or interested in, certainly in improving congestion, it’s also passenger rail. And that’s why Paul Fletcher and I were at Nambour on the Sunshine Coast last week to look at the Beerburrum to Nambour rail line, for passenger services. That’s why the Prime Minister has talked about the MetroNet in Perth. That’s why we’ve invested heavily and the Prime Minister and Kelly O'Dwyer and Scott Morrison were in Melbourne just recently for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, that $5 billion investment to ease congestion in Melbourne.

It is all about easing congestion, it’s all about taking trucks off the road, and as the Prime Minister said making people get home sooner and safer, improving those supply chain links, improving the freight task and getting on with the job of building a better Australia and improving also obviously jobs.

That’s what we're all about. 1,100 jobs a day created last year by the economic settings of this Government and this project will only enhance that.

I’d like to ask Paul to make a few comments as well.

Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities: Well thank you very much.

I'm very pleased to be here with the Prime Minister, with the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack and Jonathan Vandervoort from the ARTC for this very exciting announcement about a $400 million investment in Port Botany Rail duplication and the Cabramatta passing loop.

What we are seeing is that Malcolm Turnbull is a nation-building Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull is a city-shaping Prime Minister. We’re seeing that with the investments that we’ve already announced and the investments that we're now announcing in roads and rail, passenger and freight. And it's all about making our economy more productive and efficient. It's all about tackling congestion. It's all about Australians being able to get to work and back from work as quickly and efficiently as possible, and it's all about safety, so people are as safe as possible on roads.

And so, we are seeing, with the $75 billion infrastructure commitment that we have made over the next 10 years, a commitment across all kinds of infrastructure all around Australia being delivered by Malcolm Turnbull, the nation-building Prime Minister, the city-shaping Prime Minister.

Prime Minister: Thank you. Jonathan, do you want to say a little bit about the significance of these investments for the operation of the port?

Mr Jonathan Vandervoort—Executive General Manager, Interstate Network, ARTC: Absolutely. So ARTC welcomes the decision today. The rail line that we see here, the single section, a portion of it that’s now going to be duplicated would be at full capacity within a year or two.

What this announcement does is future proofs rail logistics out of Port Botany and in the Sydney area to 2030.

It brings a more competitive supply chain cost for all of Australia and with the development of intermodal terminals further west in Sydney, it’s crucial that we have a rail network that can support that and get the product to both the metropolitan area within Sydney but also regional product from Parkes and other areas through to Port Botany.

Prime Minister: This will get thousands of trucks off the road, won't it?

Mr Jonathan Vandervoort—Executive General Manager, Interstate Network, ARTC: It will. This project along with a number of the other investments that we’ve spoken about today, will take—as the Prime Minister said—each train could be up to 50 B-Double trucks, off the road.

Prime Minister: That’s a lot of trucks. Thank you very much Jonathon. Thank you.

Journalist: Prime Minister, pre-election budgets are traditionally big spending. Is it enough to get you over the line at the next election and what happened to the budget emergency?

Prime Minister: The important objectives are to ensure that Australians keep more of the money they earn, so that they're better able to deal with rising cost of living pressures.

So that’s why we’ve got, you’ll see tomorrow important measures relating to tax, you’ll see important measures obviously already relating to energy. We’re putting downward pressure on energy prices. We’re doing everything we can to ease the burden of cost of living pressures on Australian families.

It’s vital that we fund and guarantee essential services. We’ve got record funding in schools, record funding for hospitals. We have guaranteed Medicare and of course, we're providing the vital economic infrastructure we need. I mean Jonathan's just described the significance of this duplication here.

This is all about jobs. Of course it is about getting home sooner and safer. It is about easing congestion and making our cities more liveable, but it’s also as Michael was saying about getting goods to and from the port and that’s a vital part of our economic future. And of course we, the Government, has to live within its means.

Again, we are on track to bring the Budget back into surplus. We don't have long to wait. We’ll find out tomorrow at 7.30pm. 

Journalist: Victoria has been crowing about the amount of infrastructure spending it got, has NSW missed out?

Prime Minister: No, not at all. I had a call from the Victorian Premier this morning to thank me for the announcement, so that is good. Pardon?

Journalist: [Inaudible]

Prime Minister: Well, New South Wales, you've got to remember, we have an enormous amount on track in New South Wales.

We’ve announced additional funding in this Budget, including the Coffs Harbour Bypass, but of course we already have a huge amount underway—whether it is WestConnex, whether it’s the Western Sydney Airport or whether it is the other upgrades on the Pacific Highway or the North-South Rail Link.

So, right across the country, you will see that funding is committed in a manner that fairly represents the interests of the various parts of Australia and the infrastructure needs. So nobody has missed out.

The Victorians were saying they had been—you know, we hadn't committed enough money there in the past and they were pointing to big projects like the Western Sydney Airport. So sometimes the timing can be an issue but right across the country now there is a massive amount of infrastructure underway.

I don't know whether either of the ministers want to add to that?

Deputy Prime Minister: Certainly the announcement last week with the Nowra Bridge and the $971 million for the Coffs Harbour bypass—that is going to save lives.

I have already received calls this morning from both Luke Hartsuyker the Member for Cowper and Andrew Fraser, the state member for Coffs Harbor, praising the Government for that initiative.

Long overdue yes, but being built now by the infrastructure building Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Prime Minister: We have a current spend in New South Wales which has been added to by the announcements today, of over $21 billion, so all in all, New South Wales is the largest state and it obviously has a very large share of the infrastructure spending.

Journalist: What conversations have you had with Victoria [inaudible]?

Prime Minister: I had one on the way here with Dan Andrews. We’ll be catching up very shortly to talk about a number of those big projects, including the partnership that we're going to set up to build the rail to the airport.

We are in—particularly my colleagues are in constant discussion with state governments on infrastructure. It is a subject of abiding interest, I can assure you.

Journalist: Prime Minister can you confirm the Government has launched a review of Australia’s fuel reserves and how concerned are you about our declining fuel reserves?

Prime Minister: Yes there is a review underway, Josh Frydenberg announced that. We obviously have good fuel security here, we have many sources of supply naturally—but most of our liquid fuels are imported. Again Paul could speak in a little bit more detail about that. But we clearly have to be alert to the fact that we are producing less crude oil ourselves. We’re refining less of our own oil, our own crude oil in Australia, because reserves are being depleted so we need to review our fuel security. That is just a matter of good housekeeping.

And always focused, as you know, on ensuring Australians’ security, whether it’s national security, whether it’s security in the face of the threat of terrorism, whether it’s keeping our borders secure, ensuring that we decide who comes to Australia and not the people smugglers, and also of course ensuring that our energy supplies are secure.

We have a whole range of policies, including the National Energy Guarantee to do that.

Journalist: Can I ask you about spinal muscular atrophy, I understand you’ve got an announcement about that?

Prime Minister: Yes, Greg Hunt made some announcements about that, making life-saving drugs available. Do you know, we put one lifesaving drug after another onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme?

That wasn’t the case under the previous Labor government, when they were holding back those listings.

Now the reason we’re able to that, and this is billions of lifesaving dollars, is because of our national economic plan, because we are managing the finances of the country so that we can afford to make all of those essential services, invest in all of those essential services.

You see it is, strong economic growth is not a theoretical concept for economists to write about. It is the reality of ensuring that Australians have jobs, that they have better paid jobs, that people are able to start a business, and the business is able to thrive—all of that enables more people to realise their dreams, more families to get ahead, and it delivers more taxes and lower expenses in terms of unemployment benefits, and other social welfare payments for government. So what that enables you to do, is then invest, whether it is new drugs, or whether it is new rail lines. You’re able to make those investments and deliver those essential services.

Journalist: Can I just ask about the Badgerys Creek rail line, the airport rail line…

Prime Minister: The North-South Rail-Link, yep?

Journalist: We’ve seen money for the business case, there is no money in the forward estimates. But that’s 3.5 billion that you’re going to need to find in a very short period of time. Do you commit to funding it?

Prime Minister: Yes we have committed to funding it, in partnership with the State Government. That is part of the deal. And what we will be doing is again working as partners, is to ensure that we maximise the design of the rail line so that it is a maximum amenity—where you are able to create value. Half of some of that value from property development to go into the cost of the rail line.

But Paul can elaborate a bit on that.

Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities: Thanks Prime Minister. As you’ve rightly said, you and the Premier committed in early March to the first stage of the North-South Rail Line from St Marys to the Badgerys Creek Aerotropolis via the airport. And the joint objective of the two governments is to have the rail to the airport by the time it opens.

The next stage obviously is the detailed business case. There was a commitment for a $100 million expenditure on the business case, $50 million from the Commonwealth and $50 million from New South Wales. That $50 million is in the Budget but of course we’ve worked through that. One of the key steps in that is, the market sounding, to engage with private sector landowners and participants, because we do have a commitment to secure contributions from private sector landowners who are going to derive significant value from this. We need to work through all of that. But obviously in due course, we’ll then be in a position to build on that and have that reflected in the budget.

Prime Minister: Very good, well thank you very much.